ALBUM TITLE: Nielsen
WORKS: Maskarade; Master Oluf Rides; Snefrid – Suite for Orchestra; Saul and David – Prelude; A Fantasy
Journey to the Faroe Islands; Willemoes – extract etc
PERFORMER: Danish National SO/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: 6.220518 (hybrid CD/SACD)
If you enjoy inflicting guessing games on musical friends, then this disc has your name on it. Those who know Nielsen from his symphonies and concertos – and perhaps also the Wind Quintet – will probably think they have Nielsen’s musical personality taped. So watch them flounder when confronted with the soft voluptuousness of the ‘Sleep’ movement from Snefrid, the brazen Musorgskian fanfares from Act II of Saul and David, or the murky, barely
tonal deep string harmonies and weirdly chattering woodwind which set A Fantasy Journey to the Faroe Islands in motion.
More seriously, this disc is a good reminder of just how experimental Nielsen could be: prepared to try out not just different stylistic devices but even different kinds of persona. Where else in his output do we find the alternately languorous and harsh storytelling of Pan and Syrinx, or the elemental nature painting of Helios? Go back to the symphonies after hearing these and the ear may catch echoes of Pan’s piping, or the knight Oluf’s encounter with the enchanting yet sinister netherworld. Thomas Dausgaard conducts all these works with tremendous gusto, balanced by a fine ear for unusual, suggestive textures, or the comedic vitality that erupts in Maskarade. Good recordings too: clear, and more atmospheric than the studio environment would lead one to expect. Stephen Johnson